The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), after its review of Tucson police records, found the department, along with Border Patrol, was prolonging traffic stops longer than usual to check immigration status.
Through an open government request, the ACLU found that out of the 110 cases it reviewed, dating between June 2014 and December 2015, 85 were cases of prolonged stops.
Although the recently passed SB 1070 law allows police officers in Arizona to make a “reasonable attempt” to determine immigration status, the ACLU alleges the police department has gone beyond this requirement and therefore violated constitutional rights.
More than a dozen of the prolonged stops false positives were U.S. citizens or legal residents, almost all were Latinos. Some had been transferred over to Border Patrol according to the false information.
The group also added that the stops “reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on prolonging stops and limits on the authority of local police to enforce immigration laws.”
The ACLU sent a complaint letter with these findings outlined to Tucson Chief of Police Chris Magnus. The police department is aware of the letter and reviewing it, but has not immediately responded to the complaints.
The group also sent a second letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson addressing the Border Patrol’s participation in the prolonged traffic stops. The letter said the involvement of the Border Patrol officers shows “disregard for DHS enforcement priorities and contradicts the Obama administration’s commitment … to limit the involvement of federal immigration officials in traffic stops by Arizona law enforcement …” The Border Patrol is likewise reviewing the letter and has not immediately commented. Dan Hetlage, deputy director for media at Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D. C., said the agency focuses its enforcement resources according to the secretary’s priorities for immigration enforcement, with priority given to public and national threats.